Having seen Soren Roi play Montreal last weekend, their live work emphasizes a quick, violent collection of textures. Percussive layers pile up on one another, crafting a dark, kaleidoscopic terrain of ever-shifting shapes and static. On occasion, a filter sucks all the excess noise out of the room to re-articulate the dark, primitive energy that underpins any noisy melodic units that may appear.
Hand Dug Borehole sees a solid, quick collection of this spirit with a slightly more subdued execution, appropriate for more casual home listening than their revved up live energy. Mandorla opens with electric whips highlighting the lightly punchy low-end, a blow torch of static eventually coming in to cake the soundscape in fuzzy intensity. Odg slows down a bit as snare and bass cathartically flirt, accompanied by ominous high-end drones. The energy picks up a bit at the end with swomp jumping into a more hyper-intensive tempo and The Benefits of Doubt seeing more anger in the direct and mean bass line.
Soren Roi was a bit more exciting in the live setting and thinking of the likes of Clark or Blanck Mass, the songwriting doesn’t necessarily reach into a territory unmarked, but these five tracks each offer a unique blend of noise and techno-induced drive–a worthy start to the year in underground electronics.
If People Like You sees Michi Tassey backed by a large but nimble crew of improvisation geared instrumentalists, her solo project Nature Shots chooses to suck all of the air out of the room. “Foreclosure” holds a minimal, crystalline aura of sound throughout, to the point where the blues inspired guitar downstrokes of what is the word for… cut through the air like knives.
The void-inducing space of the work is appropriate for the subject-matter. Opening with “Three,” Tassey addresses the listener like they’re terminally ill: “doctors say you have two months and the hospice nurse…falls asleep and your family has picked a place for the service as you lay there wide awake.” An electronic glitch sounds, then guitar picked in a canyon of reverb. Although a passive listen may leave the impression of an album verging on the edge of ambient music, it’s lyrical moments like this that cast a new light on the ruminating sounds in the background.
Tassey does bear all on the six-minute centerpiece that drives home her thought process on the album. In her interview with Allston Pudding, Tassey says: “A lot of people who are told that God exists in one point in their life but don’t really ‘do that thing’ will still pray in times of crisis because it’s the last hope.” As the aforementioned guitar carries a tension into the room, a mother and daughter beg to understand why the daughter is going to die. “Haven’t I served you all these years” the mother asks as the daughter hopes to comfort her mother while also pleading “I don’t want to die.” In tragedy, we put aside our beliefs and beg for whatever decision was made to be reversed. It’s a bold, but relatable theme to an album and Tassey’s subtle but effective musical choices articulate that feeling of hopeless pleading.
I don’t like the term mumble rap. For many the division of rap is strong, with listeners split over whether or not Migos are innovators of an important new culture or trash. Maxo Kream takes a side on his debut album: “Remember back when music had content and metaphors/Way before the mumble nonsense and poppin’ handlebars.”
Ironically, I can think of one rather prominent mumble rap anthem that features more of an extended metaphor than Kream does anywhere on this tape (ALL MY FRIENDS ARE DEAD). Kream also doesn’t exactly separate himself from the mumble rap ilk between his production choices and tracks like “Grannie,” which feature one flow throughout. This gets us into the strengths of the work, however, as Kream talks straight, no-bullshit about his life and struggles in a sonic palette that works both sides of the mumble rap war.
Besides the Tame Impala wielding Pop Another, Kream sticks to an updated southern-fried sound, with slow tempo electronic darkness, trap bass and high-hats, and lilting melodies complementing his powerful but agile flow. His bars run for miles addressing some of the usual suspects: life of crime, family values, dealing with a system stacked against you (“In court gettin’ judged by a twelve whites/Who never had to struggle in they God damn life”). But he’s at his best when he gets into the super vivid detailing.
On “Roaches” he highlights the night when the Houston Hurricane hit and he was out of town: “40 missed calls, she was callin’ all night/Said there’s no more food and lights and she been fightin’ for her life.” Kream the storyteller doesn’t fluff up his life with metaphors, rather just sticking to blunt-force realism.
Kream’s got talents that could get him somewhere. Punken sounds fresh and ready to take on a wide slew of audiences. It’s not game-changing, but an uptick in hook writing might get him there in the future.
20 year-old Fifth Harmony expat Camila Cabello proves her new career path viable on her consistently solid debut. There’s the moments that will sound familiar. Her voice fits into the small-yet-powerful category shared by Brittney or Ariana. Tunes like Into It fit into the “punchy electronic beat with slick pitched sample” mantra of today’s pop–not to mention the pretty direct similarity to Lorde’s Sober. Also, there’s the relatively drab ballads, particularly Something’s Gotta Give.
Nonetheless, the record has its addicting moments. Single Havana is a sleek update of the Miami sound, Young Thug offering the perfect dose of oddball sensuality to give it a fun flair. She Loves Control sees Camila at her most emboldened, whereas Inside Out is cute and coy.
Maybe in one sense or another Camila is already taking over the world, but to really define her stamp, she still needs to grow up and out of the rest of the pack a bit. Still, her debut is rife with fun songwriting and energy, sure to dominate a lot of high-school earbuds throughout 2018.
“I thought I came but I peed on the dick”
There aren’t many who start a verse better than cupcakke. Her most widely heard moment thus far was propelled by a hype-man yelling HUMP ME/FUCK ME and lines like “I want to eat your dick,” establishing her an icon of queer club life everywhere. Ephorize is an acceleration of this one-liner mastery and brash club readiness, also leaving a little bit of room to grow-up.
Self Interview sees introspection at the surface level (“Why the fuck do I do the things that I do?”), but a song like Total adds nuance to her raunchy brand. Sex in abundance is a radical act of self-care to some and confronted with a potential partner she poses the question: “Is it worth not being solo?” Following the gruesomely specific Spoiled Milk T*****s (“Spread my ass cheeks out/While your dick is deep”), the song showcases the extremities of sexual youth.
Sonically, she’s also at the top of her game, fitting nicely into the dance-hall influenced electronic iciness of current pop. Duck Duck Goose points towards Big Fish Theory, whereas queer anthem Crayons sounds right out of a hot Latin House mix. Cupcakke may have difficulty fitting into the FCC regulations for radio play, but her music is wide-reaching—perfectly tuned to tell young folks everywhere that their desires are valid.
Riding a wave of arpeggiated synths, minimal drum machines, and dance-able bass lines, Noah Anthony’s Profligate conjures a seething aura on Somewhere Else. A mainstay of the DIY electronic community, Anthony steps into somewhat of a new realm here. The ominous landscape that sets in with distant percussion and oscillating keyboards on the title track finds a mood not unlike 2014’s Finding the Floor, but the rhythmic drive is left up to swells of the instruments and noise at his disposal rather than a consistent techno sensibility.
After Somewhere Else sputters out, A Circle of opens with screaming shots of noise, eventually jolting itself into a post-punk feeling groove highlighted by eerie high vocals from Anthony’s new collaborator Elaine Kahn. Enlist exhilarates with a punchy bass line and another spike in energy as a massively distorted melody draws viciously outside the lines. The project is remarkable in its unity, always seeming to pick up where the last track left off and over the first three tracks, the album evolves from a muttering wind to a barreling freight-train.
Elsewhere, the rhythmic momentum stalls and Kahn’s lyrical side adds complementary poetic imagery to the anxious darkness of the sonic pallet. After the haunting melodic line on Lose a Little dissipates, she takes over the droney landscape, speaking about “the water’s grey narcotic web” and how “to live is to disorganize.” Anthony’s vocals tend to remain contained and monotone and Kahn’s ability to both match that and add instances of heightened energy elsewhere helps flesh out the swells of activity.
Between the loosened rhythmic feel and the edition of Kahn, Profligate has reached a new zone. There’s room to grow from here, but Somewhere Else is a masterful amalgamation of DIY experiments. Who’s counting but a singular work spanning noise, spoken-word, post-punk-rock, electronic feels so right on Wharf Cat Records and so fresh in the year of our lord 2018.
Seeing coverage from NPR, The Fader, and Stereogum not two weeks into 2018–and her new album’s lifespan–Sidney Gish promises to explode. No Dogs Allowed’s reception is earned though, showcasing masterful songwriting and playful disposition. Her consciousness flows in monotonously perfect melody as jagged guitars float above a foundation of diy/classroom sounds. Sometimes the songs fall a bit too heavily into the posh npr pop aesthetic with melodies a bit ham-fisted (i.e. I’m Filled With Steak, and Cannot Dance) but charm seeps from the project’s pores, indicating a great-deal of success to come.
The album is a testament to polarizing youth. Opening with “Sin Triangle,” Gish depicts herself torn between wanting to go out, wanting to stay in, or perhaps wanting some sort of disease rather than this inner strife. She knows her bad habits but no way to absolve them; wants affirmation but she’s “not a lot like you” or her peers. Between her deep dive on the pronunciation of Persephone and her toying with the idea of life as a dog, Gish stands out in a crowd. Yet, relatability reigns throughout in her depiction of the terrifying period in life where we have to define who we are.